Facing a huge $68,000 (£38,900) debt in 2016, Amber Allen, 31, knew she needed to make a dramatic change.
She and her husband Joseph, 32, managed to clear their debt by adopting a minimal, environmentally-friendly lifestyle, selling off their belongings, only buying secondhand replacements, growing their own fruit and veg, and making their own reusable nappies and toilet paper.
The mum-of-three believes anyone can do the same and advises everyone to try a ‘no spend’ challenge while we’re in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amber, who lives with Joseph and their three children, Indie, five, Galaxie, two, and Selkie, eight in Ontario, Canada, said: ‘We went into lockdown on March 11 and didn’t freak out at all, because we knew we’d be able to cope.
We try and live as close to zero waste as possible, so things like stocking up on toilet paper wasn’t an issue for us.
‘In our house we only have ethically sourced toilet paper for guests. We all use reusable cloths instead of toilet paper.
‘I make them by cutting up old t-shirts or blankets. We use the cloth, wash it and hang it up to dry. Then we can use it again and again.
‘I do the same thing with Galaxie’s cloth nappies – wash them out and use them over and over.;
Amber, who raises her children on a plant-based diet, strongly believes we should embrace the simpler way of life imposed on us by the lockdown.
She said: ‘People should learn to enjoy the simplicity of the situation – rather than fighting it.
‘Isolation makes you evaluate what you have in life, and rather than buying more stuff or stockpiling – people should take the time to work out what they don’t use and give it away to other people.’
Amber went vegetarian at age 12, then at 17 began to make an effort to live more sustainably while at university – a necessity as a skint student.
At the age of 24 she met Joseph on the OKCupid. They clicked immediately, despite Joseph not initially being on board with her zero-waste lifestyle.
After dating for five months the couple moved in together in October 2013 and had baby Indie in July 29, 2015.
Happily building their life together, they did not realise how much they were spending until 2016, by which time their debts had reached an eye-watering amount.
‘We had about $50,000 (£28,800) worth of school loans to pay off between us and Joseph just wanted to buy everything completely new – all the house furniture and household items – and I suppose that’s where we went wrong,’ said Amber.
‘I suppose I ignored it for a while, and we were in denial, but when we realised on top of the school loans, we owed another $18,000 (£10,400) so $68,000 (£38,900) in total.
‘We knew we needed to do something about it.’
That’s when they decided to make a change. Amber began by getting rid of stuff she didn’t need, selling off any items that could work towards paying off their debt and replacing things with secondhand buys.
By 2018, the family were debt-free and living a super sustainable lifestyle, saving money and the planet at the same time.
‘I don’t believe anyone can live completely zero waste, but our family try our best – even though we’re not perfect – to produce as little waste as possible,’ Amber said.
‘But for me, the world is a gift, and we all need to do what we can – however small to take care of it.
‘My entire pantry is filled with reusable jars that I’ve either found, or bought second hand from websites like Facebook marketplace.
‘I fill them up at a store where everything – from cereal and rice to spaghetti and oatmeal – is sold loose, so you don’t use any plastic.
‘I do sometimes buy supermarket clearance food, because I know it’ll end up on a landfill site, so if I can’t save the plastic, at least I can save the food waste.
‘I grow all sorts of fruit and veg in my garden like apples, tomatoes, cucumber and beetroot in the summertime.
‘I prepare for winter by preserving the summer batch. In summer, I’ll do things like pick some tomatoes boil them, and turn them into sauce so I can freeze and preserve it.’
Living on the bare minimum, Amber insists that half the items found in an average household are not necessary, and that our time in isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic should encourage us to rethink our wasteful lifestyle choices.
They have no toaster and just one knife and chopping board. Each time a child wants a new toy, an old one must be donated to someone in need – and the ‘new’ one will often come from a thrift store.
The family don’t watch much TV, instead preferring to play in the sandbox made of wood they forage.
All their clothing is from charity shops. Amber has just 30 items in her wardrobe and needs no more.
Amber, who became a full-time YouTuber in 2016, shares her experiences of sustainable living with her 230,000 followers to encourage more people to adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
‘I set-up my YouTube channel as a way to document how we were getting ourselves out of debt,’ she explained.
‘I wasn’t embarrassed about it – I wanted to share how we were doing it – and that eventually led onto living a zero waste life.’
While she understands that going entirely zero waste is tough, Amber recommends that everyone uses their time in lockdown to challenge themselves to save money and live more sustainably at the same time.
She said: ‘Every January we do a no spending challenge where we don’t spend any money for the whole month.
‘Occasionally we do a “pantry challenge” where we eat everything in the pantry before buying any more food.
‘People should set themselves an “isolation challenge” and see how self-sufficient they can really be. I think a lot of people would end up surprising themselves.’
If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.
Do you have a story to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Source: Read Full Article